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Tactile Sense

Touch or somatosensory, also called tactition or

mechanoreception, is a perception resulting from

activation of neural receptors, generally in the

skin including hair follicles, but also in the

tongue, throat, and mucosa. A variety of pressure

receptors respond to variations in pressure (firm,

brushing, sustained, etc.). The touch sense of

itching caused by insect bites or allergies involves special itch-specific neurons in the skin and

spinal cord. The loss or impairment of the ability to feel anything touched is called tactile

anesthesia. Paresthesia is a sensation of tingling, pricking, or numbness of the skin that may result

from nerve damage and may be permanent or temporary.

Olfactory Sense

Olfaction or olfactory perception is the sense

of smell. This sense is mediated by

specialized sensory cells of the nasal cavity

of vertebrates, which can be considered

analogous to sensory cells of the antennae of

invertebrates. In humans, olfaction occurs

when odorant molecules bind to specific sites on the olfactory receptors. These receptors are used

to detect the presence of smell. They come together at the glomerulus, a structure which transmits
signals to the olfactory bulb (a brain structure directly above the nasal cavity and below the frontal

lobe). Many vertebrates, including most mammals and reptiles, have two distinct olfactory systems

the main olfactory system, and the accessory olfactory system (used mainly to detect pheromones).

For air-breathing animals, the main olfactory system detects volatile chemicals, and the accessory

olfactory system detects fluid-phase chemicals. Olfaction, along with taste, is a form of

chemoreception. The chemicals themselves that activate the olfactory system, in general at very

low concentrations, are called odorants. Although taste and smell are separate sensory systems in

land animals, water-dwelling organisms often have one chemical sense.

As the Epicurean and atomistic Roman philosopher Lucretius (1st Century BCE) speculated,

different odors are attributed to different shapes and sizes of "atoms" (odor molecules in the

modern understanding) that stimulate the olfactory organ. A modern demonstration of that theory

was the cloning of olfactory receptor proteins by Linda B. Buck and Richard Axel (who were

awarded the Nobel Prize in 2004), and subsequent pairing of odor molecules to specific receptor

proteins. Each odor receptor molecule recognizes only a particular molecular feature or class of

odor molecules. Mammals have about a thousand genes that code for odor reception. Of the genes

that code for odor receptors, only a portion are functional. Humans have far fewer active odor

receptor genes than other primates and other mammals.

In mammals, each olfactory receptor neuron expresses only one functional odor receptor. Odor

receptor nerve cells function like a key-lock system: If the airborne molecules of a certain chemical

can fit into the lock, the nerve cell will respond. There are, at present, a number of competing

theories regarding the mechanism of odor coding and perception. According to the shape theory,

each receptor detects a feature of the odor molecule. Weak-shape theory, known as odotope theory,

suggests that different receptors detect only small pieces of molecules, and these minimal inputs
are combined to form a larger olfactory perception (similar to the way visual perception is built up

of smaller, information-poor sensations, combined and refined to create a detailed overall

perception). An alternative theory, the vibration theory proposed by Luca Turin, posits that odor

receptors detect the frequencies of vibrations of odor molecules in the infrared range by electron

tunnelling. However, the behavioral predictions of this theory have been called into question.

There is no theory yet that explains olfactory perception completely.

Gustatory Sense

Taste (or, the more formal term,

gustation; adjectival form:

"gustatory") is one of the traditional

five senses. It refers to the capability

to detect the taste of substances such

as food, certain minerals, and

poisons, etc. The sense of taste is

often confused with the "sense" of flavor, which is a combination of taste and smell perception.

Flavor depends on odor, texture, and temperature as well as on taste. Humans receive tastes

through sensory organs called taste buds, or gustatory calyculi, concentrated on the upper surface

of the tongue. There are five basic tastes: sweet, bitter, sour, salty and umami. Other tastes such as

calcium and free fatty acids may be other basic tastes but have yet to receive widespread

acceptance.
Auditory Sense

Hearing or audition is the sense of sound perception.

Hearing is all about vibration. Mechanoreceptors

turn motion into electrical nerve pulses, which are

located in the inner ear. Since sound is vibrations

propagating through a medium such as air, the

detection of these vibrations, that is the sense of the hearing, is a mechanical sense because these

vibrations are mechanically conducted from the eardrum through a series of tiny bones to hair-like

fibers in the inner ear, which detect mechanical motion of the fibers within a range of about 20 to

20,000 hertz, with substantial variation between individuals. Hearing at high frequencies declines

with an increase in age. Inability to hear is called deafness or hearing impairment. Sound can also

be detected as vibrations conducted through the body by tactition. Lower frequencies than can be

heard are detected this way. Some deaf people are able to determine direction and location of

vibrations picked up through the feet.

Visual Sense

Sight or vision is the capability of the eye(s) to

focus and detect images of visible light on

photoreceptors in the retina of each eye that

generates electrical nerve impulses for varying

colors, hues, and brightness. There are two

types of photoreceptors: rods and cones. Rods

are very sensitive to light, but do not

distinguish colors. Cones distinguish colors, but are less sensitive to dim light. There is some
disagreement as to whether this constitutes one, two or three senses. Neuroanatomists generally

regard it as two senses, given that different receptors are responsible for the perception of color

and brightness. Some argue that stereopsis, the perception of depth using both eyes, also constitutes

a sense, but it is generally regarded as a cognitive (that is, post-sensory) function of the visual

cortex of the brain where patterns and objects in images are recognized and interpreted based on

previously learned information. This is called visual memory.

The inability to see is called blindness. Blindness may result from damage to the eyeball, especially

to the retina, damage to the optic nerve that connects each eye to the brain, and/or from stroke

(infarcts in the brain). Temporary or permanent blindness can be caused by poisons or medications.

People who are blind from degradation or damage to the visual cortex, but still have functional

eyes, are actually capable of some level of vision and reaction to visual stimuli but not a conscious

perception; this is known as blindsight. People with blindsight are usually not aware that they are

reacting to visual sources, and instead just unconsciously adapt their behavior to the stimulus.

On February 14, 2013 researchers developed a neural implant that gives rats the ability to sense

infrared light which for the first time provides living creatures with new abilities, instead of simply

replacing or augmenting existing abilities.

There were two major ancient Greek schools, providing a primitive explanation of how vision is

carried out in the body.

The first was the "emission theory" which maintained that vision occurs when rays emanate from

the eyes and are intercepted by visual objects. If an object was seen directly it was by 'means of

rays' coming out of the eyes and again falling on the object. A refracted image was, however, seen

by 'means of rays' as well, which came out of the eyes, traversed through the air, and after
refraction, fell on the visible object which was sighted as the result of the movement of the rays

from the eye. This theory was championed by scholars like Euclid and Ptolemy and their followers.

The visual dorsal stream (green) and ventral stream (purple) are shown. Much of the human

cerebral cortex is involved in vision.

The second school advocated the so-called 'intro-mission' approach which sees vision as coming

from something entering the eyes representative of the object. With its main propagators Aristotle,

Galen and their followers, this theory seems to have some contact with modern theories of what

vision really is, but it remained only a speculation lacking any experimental foundation.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) is believed to be the first to recognize the special optical

qualities of the eye. He wrote "The function of the human eye ... was described by a large number

of authors in a certain way. But I found it to be completely different." His main experimental

finding was that there is only a distinct and clear vision at the line of sight, the optical line that

ends at the fovea. Although he did not use these words literally he actually is the father of the

modern distinction between foveal and peripheral vision.